Raymond Chan: a wine critic without pretension

Raymond Chan, wine critic; b July 21, 1956; d February 10, 2019

Raymond Chan won a strong fan base of winemakers and marketers alike.
[Image Andrew Gorrie]
Raymond Chan, who has died aged 62, was a great wine communicator and for spearheading dynamic tastings in Wellington in the early days of the modern New Zealand wine industry.

He will also be remembered by family and friends (of whom more than 300 turned up to celebrate his life at a wake in Martinborough) as a man of incredible courage and determination.

Chan died at home in Wellington last month with his partner, Sue Davies, by his side.

It had been a long journey with cancer, and he was constantly praising Davies for the incredible support she provided during that time.

He lived with cancer for 10 years. During this time, he led a new style of wine communication – paid wine reviews online. He swiftly won a strong fan base of winemakers and marketers alike who wanted and needed written independent wine reviews.

He wasn’t without his detractors, but this did not deter Chan from his meticulous detailing of viticulture and winemaking information on his website, which was an invaluable resource tool for the New Zealand wine industry.

He and his work will be sorely missed because of his great ability to communicate about wine to both newcomers and experts alike. Despite his battle with debilitating cancer, he ploughed on with daily life, cycling down the hill from his home in Hataitai to Newtown each morning, working on his website each afternoon.

Chan wasn’t without his detractors but this did not deter him from his meticulous detailing of viticulture and winemaking information on his website.
[Image Andrew Gorrie]
His sunny disposition and love of wine came through in both the tastings programme he spearheaded in Wellington in the 1980s and 1990s, and on his website.

His desire was to democratise wine for all. He succeeded.

Wine never appeared on the family dining table when he was growing up. It became important to him when he graduated from the University of Otago in 1978 and worked at Chan’s Garden Restaurant, owned by his family in Dunedin.

Raymond was one of five children. He was the eldest of the four born in New Zealand to immigrant Chinese parents who were separated for seven years between his father’s arrival in New Zealand and the emigration of his wife and eldest daughter.

The family owned a fruit shop and later a fish and chip shop and, eventually, Chan’s Garden Restaurant in South Dunedin.

When the family opened the restaurant, they all became interested in wine.

“I was amazed by the early New Zealand wines of the day, and our whole family got keen on wine through the restaurant,” he said.

Chan’s sunny disposition and love of wine came through in both the tastings programme that he spearheaded in Wellington in the 1980s and 1990s and on his website.
[Image Stuff]
He became friends with wine reps from different companies and developed close relationships with wine industry people, such as Malcolm McIntyre and Chris Staynes, with whom he formed the Wine Federation of Otago and entered wine options, a guessing game in the wine industry.

The 1980s were pivotal years in Chan’s early career. He became a judge at the Royal Easter Wine Show in 1988 when Master of Wine Bob Campbell was expanding the judging system. Then he moved to Wellington in 1989 to work at Wilson Neill as a wine adviser for the late Jose Hernandez and, later, when Wilson Neill was taken over by Dominion Breweries (DB), he went to O’Reilly’s on Thorndon Quay, where he worked for Zuke Marinkovich from 1991 to 1994.

This role saw him establish Wellington wine tasting programmes, most influentially at Regional Wines & Spirits, working for the store’s late founder, Grant Jones, whom Chan described as a visionary.

After Chan’s death, one friend wrote on social media: “He opened my eyes to wine.”

Chan’s desire was to democratise wine for all. He succeeded.
[Image Maarten Holl]
Another said: “Without him, I can’t imagine how I would have gotten into a wine career and he was super supportive even when I knew nothing – he always had time to answer my questions, no matter how trivial I imagine they may have seemed to him.”

I can echo those comments. The first time I met him was at an upstairs tasting at Regional Wines & Spirits in 1995. I was a young wine writer with very little knowledge at the time and, realising I needed to learn, the tastings beckoned.

Chan’s passion for wine was infectious. He was warm and welcoming. He lacked pretension and exuded an openness to teach, which is sorely needed in wine circles today.

I owe him a lot. Like many Wellingtonians in the 1990s, I learnt more about wine from Chan than from anyone else in wine circles. He encouraged me as a young writer, happy to see a newcomer and help them on their path.

Raymond Chan won a strong fan base of winemakers and marketers alike.
[Image ]
He was a breath of fresh air. His support for my writing career will always give him a special place in my heart. His encouragement and support for many others in the New Zealand industry means that they, too, can echo this thought.

His funeral was a small family affair in Wellington, followed by food at his favourite yum cha restaurant. The wake to celebrate his life was another matter. It was held at Ata Rangi, one of the first four wineries to establish itself in Martinborough.

The catering was by Ruth Pretty and more than 300 people turned up to pay their tributes to the man who most described as having a ground-breaking influence on their journey into winemaking, viticulture, marketing, sales and writing.

It has been my great privilege to know, admire and learn from the man who inspired one of my personal greatest wine passions – German riesling. It was a passion that he and Davies also shared.

He will be very deeply missed and very highly revered, as he deserved to be, for the role he played in championing wine and its producers at a formative time in the modern history of New Zealand wine.

Joelle Thomson 16 Mar 2019
Joelle Thomson is a writer and published author of 15 books about wine.

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Raymond Chan’s pivotal role will be remembered

 

I wrote this obituary this morning for Raymond Chan, who was my friend, my mentor and a man who played a pivotal role in championing wine and its producers at a formative time in the modern history of New Zealand wine. It is also published on my website at www.joellethomson.com

Courageous, determined and undeterred. Raymond Chan will leave a legacy of great courage, as well as of good humour and a passion for wine.

He passed away on Sunday 10 February after a long journey with cancer, which lasted the best part of a decade. His long term partner, Sue Davies, was an integral part of this journey, offering unwavering support, putting her own career on hold, much of the time, to ensure Raymond had what he needed.

His bravery will remain as inspiring as his cheeky good humour and his passion for wine, which perhaps shone brightest in his role at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington where he ran and hosted great tastings for many years.

Wine never appeared on the family dining table when Chan was growing up. It became important to him when he graduated from the University of Otago in 1978 and worked at Chan’s Garden Restaurant, owned by his family in Dunedin.

“I was amazed by the early New Zealand wines of the day and our whole family got keen on wine through the restaurant,” he once said, when asked how he got into wine.

He and his wine friends, such as Malcolm McIntyre and Chris Staynes then formed the Wine Federation of Otago and entered wine options, a guessing game in the wine industry.

The 1980s were pivotal years in Chan’s early career in wine. He became a wine judge at the Royal Easter Wine Show in 1988 when Master of Wine Bob Campbell was expanding the wine judging system. Then he moved to Wellington in 1989 to work at Wilson Neill as a wine advisor for the late, Jose Hernandez, and, later, when Wilson Neill was taken over by Dominion Breweries (DB), he went to O’Reilly’s on Thorndon Quay where he worked for Zuke Marinkovich from 1991 to 1994.

This role saw him establish Wellington wine tasting programmes, which he spearheaded most influentially at Regional Wines & Spirits, working for the store’s late founder, Grant Jones, who Raymond described as a visionary.

“He opened my eyes to wine,” said one wine friend, on social media this morning.

“Without him, I can’t imagine how I would have gotten into a wine career and he was super supportive even when I knew nothing – he always had time to answer my questions, no matter how trivial I imagine they may have seemed to him,” said another wine industry friend.

I can echo those comments.

The first time I met Raymond was at an upstairs tasting at Regional Wines & Spirits in 1995. I was a young wine writer with very little wine knowledge at the time and, realising I needed to learn, the tastings beckoned. Raymond’s passion for wine was infectious. He was warm and welcoming. He lacked pretension and exuded an openness to teach, which is sorely needed in wine circles today.

It has been my great privilege to know, admire and learn from the man who inspired one of my personal greatest wine passions – German Riesling. It was a passion that he and his partner, Sue Davies, also shared.

Raymond will be very deeply missed and very highly revered, as he deserved to be, for the role he played in championing wine and its producers at a formative time in the modern history of New Zealand wine.

Committee celebrate the end of 2018

Another successful Cellar Club year started with a BBQ, several tastings, the AGM, another tasting, then mid-year dinner, followed by several more tastings, then finally a very successful end-of-year dinner. 

In upholding tradition, and as a way of celebrating the committees’ work throughout the year, the club’s President hosts an end of year celebration for committee, partners and guests. Each year we celebrate by sampling each other’s favourite wines along with a grand selection of food. This year we were fortunate to sample many labels who have presented to the club and some who have not.  The wines came from the labels La Cilla, Hunters, Clearview, Ruby Bay, Alpha Domus, Awatere River, Rapaura Springs, Lindauer, Okahu Estate, Tyrells, Old Coach Road, Olssens, Ransom, Dry River, Rod MacDonald, Rockburn, and Ash Ridge. A large and diverse range that could have gone down well at any tasting.

Thanks to our gracious hosts, club President Murray and Dina, who organised (with the gods) great weather for the event, along with the committee, wishes members and guests a joyous and safe Christmas. We look forward to seeing you all during 2019 starting with the BBQ in January. Details to come.

Koa Kirihimete
Merry Christmas

From the committee

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Lots of news from Ash Ridge

With another great vintage in the winery, we can all take a small breath and focus on having a little bit of downtime, and enjoying some older vintages! As always, there are lots of new things happening at the winery, and more to come, here are the current highlights.

Online Ordering is now live

New York Brownie with Raspberry Compote

As promised you can now go to our website http://www.ashridgewines.co.nz, and order online. Get your wine club discount of 25% by simply using ASHRIDGECLUB181 in the coupon code. We have updated the site with all of our current release wines. Hopefully, this will make life more convenient for you. We aim to have orders dispatched within 24 hours. If you prefer to order via email, simply send me the details to cellar@ashridgewines.co.nz.

As the home of Ash Ridge our cellar door has been a major focus, and we are constantly upgrading everything we do. The latest change is the new menu we have just launched. We are moving to a more Bistro style menu with entree, main and dessert options. So if you feel like a treat please book in for a lunch! Please remember that as a Wine Club member you get 25% off food as well as wine.

Functions and Weddings

Our new facility really opens up a myriad of options for us and you. The new building capacity is 100 people, so we can host functions for much larger groups in beautiful and comfortable surroundings. Our dining area allows for group sizes of 40-45 people seated, and we are also looking at hosting weddings. We are licensed until 10 pm, so we are able to accommodate evening functions as well.

If you have any interest in any of these options, please contact me at cellar@ashridgewines.co.nz.

Wine Boxes all now sent

We have completed the May deliveries. Thank you for your patience, we have tried to ensure that all packages have been delivered in a timely manner through Toll, but if for any reason your box has not arrived please contact me at cellar@ashridgewines.co.nz, and we will hunt down the delivery.

I really want to thank you, everyone, for all your support. As a small winery, we can only do what we do with your ongoing support. In a world were access to retail channels is becoming harder and harder, having the direct support of wine lovers is what keeps us going, and we appreciate your current and ongoing support.

Chris and the Team at Ash Ridge.

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Hawke’s Bay Wine – Autumn/Winter edition

Click cover image to view the autumn & winter issue. Opens in a new tab
Click cover image to view the autumn & winter issue. Opens in a new tab.

Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers presents your digital issue of Hawke’s Bay Wine – Autumn/Winter edition

  • Studying Syrah berry size
  • Turning vision into reality – a business strategy for Hawke’s Bay Wine
  • Ngaruroro WCO – cautious optimism

In every issue we profile Hawke’s Bay Wine companies and personalities, wine from our region and associated sectors. We offer up a number of informed viewpoints, cover the news and present a range of wine-related feature stories.

Do you have news relating to Hawke’s Bay Wine Sector?
Email: hawkesbaywinemag@xtra.co.nz.

Advertising enquiries can be directed to Kite Communications

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Hawke’s Bay Wine – Summer Issue

Click cover image to view the summer issue. Opens in a new tab
Click cover image to view the summer issue. Opens in a new tab

Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers presents your digital issue of Hawke’s Bay Wine – Summer Issue.

  • Chairman’s Report 2017
  • Under-vine reflector panels
  • The cirtical powdery mildew window

In every issue we profile Hawke’s Bay Wine companies and personalities, wine from our region and associated sectors. We offer up a number of informed viewpoints, cover the news and present a range of wine-related feature stories.

Do you have news relating to Hawke’s Bay Wine Sector?
Email: hawkesbaywinemag@xtra.co.nz.

Advertising enquiries can be directed to Kite Communications

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The A – Z of wine

Glengarry’s Sunday ramblings of all things vinous, grain and glorious. Issue 9, The A – Z of wine.

Goodbye Winter. Can’t say we’re sorry to see the back of you, what with the wind and the rain and the flu; when all’s said and done, there’s only so much a warming glass of red wine will fix.

However, we turn our gaze and our palates to the more benign months with a glowing shimmer of anticipation. It’s reboot and refresh time, and what better way to kick things off than with a quick A-Z of things vinous for your general edification. From A for acidity to Z for Zinfandel, there’s bound to be a little bit of something in there to intrigue and interest many of you.

What else? We feature Zephyr wines, the appropriately-named vehicle for the impressive winemaking skills of Ben Glover. Bach Brewing, only three years old but already so weighted down with medals. An exciting new offering from Gisborne’s Matawhero winery, the Irwin Chardonnay. Belvedere vodka – Polish know-how 600 years in the making. The under-the-radar genius of Champagne Moutard.

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July is Mid-Winter Dinner Month!

The Committee was looking to arrange the always-popular Cuba Street Bistro once again. But as the saying goes, the best laid plans of best-laid men oft gang awry. The building’s owner decided the chosen date would be a good time to undertake earthquake strengthening so the evening had to be scrapped.

However do not despair! Bistro 52 has been selected as the replacement. This is located in Lower Cuba Street and the Club has been there previously – and it very good it was too. The venue has been booked for Wednesday 19 July, with a 6.00pm start for a 6.30pm ordering of your meal. You will be welcomed with a glass of bubbles! Attached to this Newsletter is a Payment Advice for June 2017 (for both the dinner and your subscriptions). Price for the dinner is $52 per person including corkage – it’s BYO of course.

Note the date – this is a week later than the Club’s usual meeting evening. It’s the first week of the students’ new semester and they are still finalising the menu, but they have never let us down before!

This looks even now as though it will be a definite winner!

Payment Advice for June 2017

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Hawke’s Bay Wine – Winter Issue

Click cover image to view the winter issue. Opens in a new tab
Click cover image to view the winter issue. Opens in a new tab.

Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers presents your digital issue of Hawke’s Bay Wine – Winter Issue.

  • Building brand stories in the cellar door
  • New hydrological model making waves
  • New partner in biosecurity

In every issue we profile Hawke’s Bay Wine companies and personalities, wine from our region and associated sectors. We offer up a number of informed viewpoints, cover the news and present a range of wine-related feature stories.

Do you have news relating to Hawke’s Bay Wine Sector?

Email: hawkesbaywinemag@xtra.co.nz
Advertising enquiries can be directed to Kite Communications
Digital subscription sign up directed to Elisha

Copyright © 2017 Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Inc, All rights reserved.

Mailing address is:
Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Inc
PO Box 1174
Hastings, Hawke’s Bay 4156
New Zealand

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MAJOR STOKE – International Trophy win for our Quarter Acre Syrah

Breaking news from Rod McDonald Wines

In breaking news (well, breaking for you, we’ve had it on hold for a couple of weeks now…), we can tell you that our little old Quarter Acre 2015 Syrah has just taken out the trophy for the Best International Syrah in London at the International Wine Challenge (IWC). Not only that, but it also went and won the trophies for best New Zealand Syrah, Best New Zealand Red and Best Hawke’s Bay Syrah. A magnificent four-trophy-haul, with the Best NZ Red and Best International being a particularly big deal by my way of thinking.

The IWC is as prestigious as it gets, it’s a truly international competition that’s meticulously judged blind by some of the best in the business. Apparently the Quarter Acre was up against 1200 plus other gold medal winning wines across the four categories, and it took out all four trophies. Hard to fathom.

This is the biggest award I’ve ever won and it’s a really big deal for us. But it’s also a big win for New Zealand on a vast international stage, so we’re all pretty stoked, proud, amazed and grateful. One person doesn’t make the wine alone, we all know that, and although it’s my name on the bottle we’ve a small bunch of committed wine people here at RMW who all work their butts off, taking risks, crafting, wrangling, organising and grafting away all towards the same goal of making the best bloody wine we can. As risky as it may seem at the time, these awards are a real-life confirmation that we’re doing something right and this is what people want to see more of…wines that have quality at their core, but have enough personality to shine in a room full of top notch wines.

Thanks to those of you who return to buy our wine time and time (and time!) again. You grease the machine and allow us to continue. Hand on heart, thank you.

That’s all for now. I’m in China at the moment on a New Zealand Wine and Hawke’s Bay Wine trade tour, heading home in a week, but for now I may just have to go and have a couple of impressively large beers to celebrate!

Cheers, Rod

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Hawke’s Bay Wine – Autumn Issue

Click cover image to view the autumn issue. Opens in a new tab.
Click cover image to view the autumn issue. Opens in a new tab.

Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers presents your digital issue of Hawke’s Bay Wine – Autumn Issue.

  • Ngaruroro low flow threat to our wine industry
  • Classic Reds resounding success for Hawke’s Bay

In every issue we profile Hawke’s Bay Wine companies and personalities, wine from our region and associated sectors. We offer up a number of informed viewpoints, cover the news and present a range of wine-related feature stories.

Do you have news relating to Hawke’s Bay Wine Sector?

Email: hawkesbaywinemag@xtra.co.nz
Advertising enquiries can be directed to Kite Communications
Digital subscription sign up directed to Elisha

Copyright © 2017 Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Inc, All rights reserved.

Mailing address is:
Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers Inc
PO Box 1174
Hastings, Hawke’s Bay 4156
New Zealand

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Condolences – Ron Thomson

The Presidents
The Cellar Club Presidents at The Cellar Club’s 25th birthday dinner, The James Cook Hotel, Feb 2006. From left to right Derek Thomson, Ron Thompson, Alan Evans, Wayne Kennedy, Graeme Fountain, Francesca Menzies and John Browning.

It is with deep sadness that we wish to report the passing of one of our Life Members , Ron Thomson.

Ron’s participation in the club dates back to our early beginnings when he was the editor of our newsletters until he relinquished that role to take over as our second President in 1986.

Ron became a life member in 2009 and whilst he has not attended tastings since he moved to Waikanae, he and Barbara continued to attend  our dinners until more recently when health issues began to intercede.

Our condolences go out to his many friends in the Cellar Club.

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